Denver's art world is booming, and thanks to the city's walkability, visitors can experience some of the best artsy attractions on foot in a single day for less than $50. Take a day off and discover Denver art.
FIRST STOP: CUTTING-EDGE ART IN A CUTTING-EDGE BUILDING
This gem of a museum proves that contemporary art can be thought-provoking and fun all at once.
MCA Denver's modern and elegant LEED-certified building (designed by renowned London architect David Adjaye) stands out amidst refurbished turn-of-the-century brick warehouses and is easily recognizable thanks to the whimsical pierced-heart sculpture ("Toxic Schizophrenia," by British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster) that stands at the entrance atop a tall, steel pole.
Once inside, note the uniquely warm, natural lighting; more than 50 percent of the building's exterior wall is a double-skin façade, with insulating tinted curtain walls and an interior of Monopan©, a translucent, honeycomb-patterned material that allows natural light in without glare.
MCA Denver features five galleries — Photography, Paper Works, Large Works, New Media and Projects — each with rotating exhibits to guarantee that every visit to the museum offers a new experience. Make your way through the inviting stillness, taking time to linger if a piece catches your eye.
Afterward, spend a little time relaxing on MCA Denver's rooftop deck, which boasts 360-degree views of the Denver skyline. The garden, created by local landscape architect Karla Dakin, features several steel-framed plant and flower beds suspended in space, floating above a pool of water. The MCA Café on the rooftop offers beverages, organic and locally grown food and free Wi-Fi.
Before heading to the next Denver art destination, stop in at Shop MCA, selling books, DVDs, clothing and limited-edition works of art. It's the perfect spot for an off-beat gift for the art lover in your family.
TIME SPENT: 1.5 hours
There's another can't-miss oversized piece of public art on your schedule. Head back down Stout Street, turn right at 14th and walk toward the Colorado Convention Center. The Blue Bear will be right in front of you. Created by Denver-based artist Lawrence Argent, this delightful, 40-foot sculpture, surrounded by xeriscaped gardens, peers curiously into the building, injecting a sense of fun and playfulness into the convention center experience. Take a photo or two of this only-in-Denver icon. He looks good from all angles.
TIME SPENT: 45 minutes
THIRD STOP: COWBOY CULTURE
Head back to the 16th Street Mall and catch a free shuttle. It will come to its final stop right near Colfax Avenue. Cross Colfax and enter Civic Center Park, a two-block oasis filled with flower gardens and Old West art, located a stone's throw from Colorado's gold-domed Capitol Building. Check out Allen True's murals (located in the park's Greek Theater), depicting pioneers in the wilderness, and the two Western-themed bronze statues, "Bronco Buster" and "On the War Trail," by Denverite Alexander Phimister Proctor. Not exactly Western-themed, but certainly worth a look, is the delightfully eye-catching sculpture outside of the Denver Public Library. "The Yearling," by Donald Lipski, features a pinto pony perched atop a 21-foot-tall red chair, sure to give even the most jaded among us a sense of childlike wonder.
TIME SPENT: .5 hours
Fans of Western American art will be thrilled to find that the DAM houses one of the largest collections of American West-themed art in the world, including work by masters such as Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, John Mix Stanley and others. The crown jewel in the institute's collection is Charles Deas' "Long Jakes, Rocky Mountain Man," the single most influential image in Rocky Mountain iconography.
Time-travel even further back in the pre-Columbian art collection, which features pieces from nearly every major culture in Mesoamerica, Central America and South America. Or explore the DAM's extensive selection of Native American art.
Those looking for art of a more recent vintage should head to the Hamilton Building's third and fourth levels, where DAM's modern and contemporary collection lives. Marvel at more than 4,500 works in a wide variety of media, with an emphasis on both internationally known and emerging artists. Particularly striking is Sandy Skoglund's "Fox Games," which depicts an invasion of foxes, sculpted in clay and cast in polyester resin, within a restaurant. The foxes prowl on and around red tables in an entirely red room. It's humorous and eerie all at once.
TIME SPENT: 2–3 hours
FIFTH STOP: ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM AT ITS FINEST
Clyfford Still is considered one of the most important American artists of the 20th century and an originator of the abstract expressionism movement. With more than 2,500 artworks in the collection, the Clyfford Still Museum houses the life's work of this visionary artist. Located in a beautiful new building next to the Denver Art Museum, the Still Museum lets you experience these magical works the way the artist intended.
TIME SPENT: 1 hour
SIXTH STOP: 'DENVER'S MOST INTERESTING MUSEUM?' — THE DENVER POST
After exiting DAM, head over to the newly renovated Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art for the final stop on the tour. Take in the museum's collection of 20th-century decorative arts in their new 38,500-square-foot facility on 12th Avenue and Bannock Street. On display are more than 3,300 works of Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Glasgow Style, Wiener Werkstatte, De Stijl, Bauhaus, Art Deco, Modern and Pop Art. Additionally, a major survey of Colorado art history is documented with over 170 artists represented by more than 700 works with a strong focus on the first three-quarters of the 20th century. Also, be sure to view the retrospective of Colorado's distinguished painter Vance Kirkland (1904–1981) in his original painting studio.